Role reversal for this Seahawks-Giants matchup

Posted Dec 11, 2013

A lot has changed since the Giants hosted the Seahawks in Week 5 of the 2011 season. The change has been good for the 11-2 Seahawks, while the 5-8 Giants are looking to change their losing ways.

In their Week 5 matchup in 2011, the Seahawks proved to be a bump in the road for the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on their path to the Super Bowl.

The Seahawks won 36-25 on that October afternoon, but the Giants ended up winning it all, while the Seahawks finished 7-9 for the second season in a row.

These teams will tangle again on Sunday, and again at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands. But that’s where the similarities end. While many of the players might be the same, it’s the Seahawks who own the best record in the NFC (11-2) and already have secured a postseason berth, while the Giants are 5-8 and were officially eliminated from the playoff picture with Sunday’s loss to the Chargers in San Diego.

“That’s the predicament that we put ourselves in. Nobody did it but us,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Wednesday during a conference-call interview. “We’re the ones responsible, and therefore do we have the wherewithal to play three solid games here at the end of the year and perhaps gain some of the respect back that we’ve had in other years.”

The Seahawks, meanwhile, are looking to regain their edge after Sunday’s two-point loss to the 49ers in San Francisco that snapped a seven-game winning streak. It also prevented them from clinching the NFC West title and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Obviously this Seahawks team is better than the Seahawks team that upset the Super Bowl-bound Giants on their home field two years ago.

This Seahawks team has the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL, and is among the top teams in the league in forcing turnovers.

“It’s very different,” All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas said when asked about the 2013 defense compared to the 2011 defense. “Different personnel. A more physical defense. We played a lot of zone then, and that allowed receivers to just run through our defense and kind of do what they want.

“But now we’re more aggressive.”

In that 2011 game, Victor Cruz caught eight passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. But he also had a pass go off his hands near the Seahawks’ goal line as the Giants were driving for a go-ahead score in the closing minutes. Cornerback Brandon Browner picked off the pass and returned it a franchise-record 94 yards for a touchdown to ice the upset.

Browner won’t play this week because of a groin injury. Cruz will. But, as Thomas said, he can expect a more aggressive approach in the Seahawks’ pass coverage.

On offense, Russell Wilson has replaced Tarvaris Jackson as the starting quarterback, and is 22-7 in that role since being selected in the third round of last year’s NFL Draft.

“I see, in young Russell Wilson, the ingredients to extend plays,” Coughlin said. “Which he has done quite often, giving him opportunities for his receivers to maneuver downfield, and they have. They’ve done a good job of that and they certainly have an outstanding runner in Marshawn Lynch.”

Coughlin is not the only one who has been impressed by the Seahawks’ second-year quarterback. Eli Manning, his counterpart with the Giants and a two-time Super Bowl MVP, spent time with Wilson at the Pro Bowl after last season.

“I’ve been very impressed with Russell,” Manning said during a conference-call interview. “He’s a great person, a great athlete. And he’s fun to watch play. He makes a lot of plays, he throws the ball accurately and he runs around. He’s been tremendous these first two years and I think he has a very bright future, and he’s just a good person also.”

Take it from the quarterback of a team that has been where Wilson and the Seahawks are hoping it get.